Liverpool and Manchester United remain huge rivals, but ahead of Tuesday's latest showdown at Anfield, it's safe to say one club is in far better shape than the other.
Original article published 17 April 2022
While Liverpool remain in rude health, still on course for a sensational quadruple this season, the best United can hope for is finishing fourth in the Premier League table to ensure they are at least in the Champions League next term.
Jurgen Klopp's side were outstanding when taking Manchester City apart in the first half of their FA Cup semi-final triumph on Saturday and now hope to beat the red half of Manchester to go back to the top of the Premier League - and above the Citizens in the process - as the title battle resumes.
City are currently 2/5 to retain their crown, with the Merseysdiers priced at 2/1.
Liverpool and United have both enjoyed lengthy spells of success in the English game with the Merseysiders outshining the Red Devils in the 1970s and 1980s, before Sir Alex Ferguson initiated a turnaround in fortunes in the 1990s and beyond.
United were the dominant force from 1992 up until 2013, winning the Premier League 13 times in that period as Liverpool struggled to compete for the top prizes on anywhere near a regular basis.
However, after Klopp finally ended Liverpool's 30-year wait for the title in 2020, it is they who are in much better shape at present amid ongoing issues at Old Trafford.
The last thing United will want to do is admit they could learn plenty from their long-standing rivals, but it's obvious there are lessons the hierachy at Old Trafford could take from the way Liverpool have gone about re-establishing themselves in recent years.
The starting point is with the manager. It could well be viewed in years to come that the appointment of charismatic German coach Klopp in 2015 was one of the best pieces of business ever conducted at Anfield.
The former Borussia Dortmund boss has, in his near seven years in charge, transformed Liverpool from also-rans into one of the most feared teams in the world, winning the Champions League, Club World Cup and, most recently, the EFL Cup, to add to the league title of a couple of years ago.
Klopp's personality and positive character has enveloped the club and his well-defined tactics of hard-pressing, hard work and exhilarating attacking football have paid off with some incredible results and Liverpool are 6/5 to win the Champions League again this season.
United, on the other hand, have made a succession of poor appointments since Ferguson left, culminating in the strange decision to place Ralf Rangnick in interim charge for the rest of the season following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking towards the end of last year.
Getting the right man in charge is crucial if United want to start winning silverware again and it looks like Ajax chief Erik Ten Hag will be the chosen one.
He has impressed on a smaller budget in Amsterdam and led them to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2019, as well as winning two Eredivisie titles.
He needs to come in, be ruthless in getting rid of players like Paul Pogba who clearly want out, and dispense with others who are simply not good enough.
Big question marks remain over first-team regulars like Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Scott McTominay, to name just three. Are they really of the required standard to build a side seriously capable of challenging Liverpool and City in the near future?
Cristiano Ronaldo's return has also not been the success many were hoping it would be when he was welcomed back last summer.
There's no doubting the Portuguese superstar has contributed with plenty of key goals, but, at the age of 37, he is not the future of the club and there have been some suggestions he has only created more divisions and uncertainty in what appears to be a fractured dressing room.
The new man in charge also needs to be given time. Liverpool finished fourth in Klopp's first full season in charge in 2016-17, and have gradually improved since as the 54-year-old has been afforded space to develop his plans - while being handed significant funds to strengthen his squad when required - which is another area where United must aim to emulate Liverpool's achievements.
Liverpool's recent success has been built on the bedrock of an astute recruitment programme, led impressively by sporting director Michael Edwards.
They have successfully identified the perfect players to fit the style of football they want to play and also ensured they are of the right character to fit in seamlessly into a close-knit squad.
There is barely a signing during the Klopp era that could be classed as a failure as the likes of Mo Salah, Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Diogo Jota and, most recently, Luis Diaz, have all come in and been huge hits.
They have not come cheap, but United, who have splashed out on several high-profile signings without anywhere near the same impact, must ensure the rebuilding job which is clearly needed at Old Trafford is carefully planned and the money spent wisely on the correct players.